• Syntactical

On Writing: Unlearning Preciousness

Updated: May 12, 2020

Writing is personal, even when the content produced is not. As such, many writers struggle to separate themselves from their work. They worry and worry and worry about what they’re putting down on the page, and in the end, that fear paralyses them, and they find themselves unable to write anything at all.

I’ve definitely been there, tangled up in a web of self-sabotage and paralysis. So, indeed, have many of the writers I know. Novelists, screenwriters, poets and copywriters alike. When writing is your favourite thing in the world, it’s difficult not to be precious about it.

But you can’t sustain a career if you can’t even bring yourself to write.

I’m currently studying towards a Masters, and this entails writing the majority of a novel in just one year. I have had to let go of so much preciousness in order to get my work handed in on time. I have handed out pieces for workshopping that I was much less than satisfied with. Truth is, nobody writes a cracking first draft. If they do, they’re editing as they go.

When I’m struggling with my writing, I get out of the rut by asking myself what’s worse – a thousand terrible words, or a blank page? I don’t know about you, but I’d always go for the former. You can’t edit what doesn’t exist. You can’t find the good among the awful if there is none of either.

These days, I write through scenes and power through articles even when I think that what I’m writing is not ground-breaking or wonderful or perfect. And then, when I’m done, I go back and try my best to make it all of those things. I don’t beat myself up for a poorly worded sentence – I just delete or rephrase.

I try to think of Writer Cara and Editor Cara as two slightly separate people. Editor Cara, I have to say, is far superior. And I am very glad of that.

Next time you’re struggling to keep typing, say it to yourself. A thousand terrible words or a blank page?

Cara x